The Southern Miss men’s basketball was crowned the Cancun Challenge Mayan Division Champions on Wednesday afternoon, November 23, 2022.. The Golden Eagles (6-0, 0-0 SBC) cruised to a 70-58 win over Purdue Fort Wayne (3-3, 0-0 Horizon) at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya in Cancun, Mexico.
The win moved the Golden Eagles to 6-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season. It’s also their first MTE Tournament win since the 2010-11 season. Southern Miss’ Felipe Haase was named tournament MVP and Austin Crowley earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team.
Southern Miss rallied from an early four-point deficit and took control of the game after slugfest of a start. After the Mastodons took their brief lead, Haase drained a 3-pointer with 10:36 left in the first half to give Southern Miss the lead for good. It pushed the advantage to six after DeAndre Pinckney hit a pair of free throws after drawing a foul in the paint.
A 9-0 run moved it to a 13-point lead for the Golden Eagles when Haase hit another trey. Purdue Fort Wayne cut it to single digits as the clock ticked closer to halftime, but Pinckney jumper and Marcelo Perez buzzer beater made it 39-26 at the break. Southern Miss benefited from a 48.5 percent shooting clip in the first half to pull ahead. Denijay Harris, who finished with 10 points, had eight in the first 20 minutes.
Haase came out of the break and knocked down a 3-pointer to let Purdue Fort Wayne know that Southern Miss wasn’t heading home wihhout a trophy. The Golden Eagles hovered around a 12-point lead for much of the second half until the Mastodons got to within eight with 14:13 to go. However, Tyler Morman checked played a crucial role off the bench and grabbed an and-one to put the Black and Gold back up by 11.
Purdue Fort Wayne answered again to get within seven with 9:48 left, but that’s as close as it got. Another run pushed Southern Miss’ lead to 20 when Haase went to work at the charity stripe. The celebration was on for Jay Ladner’s squad when Pinckney grabbed the final rebound with 24 seconds left in the game.
Crowley added nine points with three steals. Pinckney finished with eight, while Donovan Ivory added six points off the bench. Nico Aguirre played 22 minutes — the most of his Golden Eagle career — en route to finishing with five points.
Southern Miss forced 18 turnovers and had 17 points off of them. The Golden Eagles shot over 50 percent for the game and went 5-of-20 from deep.
The undefeated start is the best for former Pass Christian resident and Head Basketball Coach Jay Ladner since hiring in 2019 at his alma mater. Ladner has earned 100 wins during his time at USM after spending over 20 years at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis with 500 plus victories and a state championship.
Following this, he served as a junior college head basketball coach at Jones County for two years, winning the first national title in Mississippi history at the junior college level in 2014. Once he left the junior college ranks, was hired by Southeastern Louisiana in 2014 and stayed until 2019 when hired by Southern Miss.